In conjunction with this month’s edition of Talking Our Our Avs podcast where the panel ranks and discusses the Top 15 Colorado Avalanche prospects as we reach the midpoint in the season, I have decided to reveal my ballot. This does not serve as a season recap and performance analysis, that is still forthcoming at the holiday break. Conducting a ranking midseason is a bit of a difficult task but all factors of ceiling, floor, proximity to NHL and likelihood of contributing are all considered with a bit more weight given to upside and current performance at this juncture. Prospects don’t exist in a vacuum so their place and probability for success within the organization are weighed as well.
A few ground rules first, for clarity and to limit to just 15 we decided not to include any player with NHL experience as it’s much more difficult to assess their place in the organization and even prospect status in-season. Also, no goaltenders as their sample sizes are just much smaller at this point plus it is difficult to view much of their game footage. Everyone will get added back in to the pool with the new draftees and any signees in the offseason ranking.
To follow along with the discussion, listen below.
1 Cale Makar
There is zero debate on the top prospect in the Avalanche organization. Makar is highly talented, is having an excellent season and should be wearing burgundy as soon as this spring.
2 Martin Kaut
As a 19-year old with a mature skill set and professional experience who has been producing in the AHL and positively impacting the Colorado Eagles, Kaut is a pretty safe bet to contribute to the Avalanche sooner than later. With his large frame, smarts and shot, Kaut has some underrated upside as well.
3 Shane Bowers
It has been a tougher sophomore season for Bowers at BU but everything that is likable about Bowers’ game is still visible. A smart two-way center with the soul of a power forward, Bowers should be ready for pro hockey after this season.
4 Nicolas Meloche
Meloche possesses strong talent as a modern physical two-way defenseman with puck skill and a scoring touch. He should receive a look at the NHL level this year but it is becoming difficult to see a clear path and plan to the NHL in Colorado for him.
5 Connor Timmins
A near impossible player to rank due to the concussion halting his development. I’m leaving Timmins’ placement where I had it this summer because his talent still puts him in the top five and the issues he might deal with should he ever return are concerns I had going into the season such as handling speed and pressure at the next level.
6 Ty Lewis
Hard to believe but Lewis is one of the most talented and skilled forwards in the Avalanche system. He also has the best chance of developing and graduating to the NHL as he’s been put in a good position to succeed playing both special teams units for the Eagles and mostly in a secondary scoring role. So far encouraging returns early on in Lewis’ pro career.
7 Nikolai Kovalenko
Tough to separate this next duo of Russian forwards likely taking different paths to the NHL. Kovalenko is banking on the KHL preparing him for the NHL, which might not be the worst idea to bypass the Avalanche development system. He’s skilled and frighteningly tenacious but is probably ticketed for a third line role, which should actually work in his favor if he ever signs with the Avalanche in hopes (promises) of making the team right away.
8 Igor Shvyrev
On one hand, Shvyrev is more naturally skilled than Kovalenko with a bit more offensive upside plus is actually already playing in North America. While playing consistently, he’s getting buried in the lineup and put into a grinder role, therefore Shvyrev is likely not materially much closer to cracking the Avalanche roster and in any better role than Kovalenko.
9 Sampo Ranta
Pure talent puts Ranta in the top ten with his size, skating and shot. If he can get any sort of polish in the NCAA Ranta could be a contributor for the Avalanche in a couple years. I don’t consider him as much of a massive project as he’s generally perceived.
10 Logan O’Connor
This year’s surprise prospect made a name for himself at training camp but the hype has quieted down once he began playing with the Eagles. He is producing well there though and should still be a favorite of coach Bednar, so it wouldn’t be unexpected to see him play with the Avalanche this year in an energy type role.
11 JC Beaudin
He is back on the radar again as he gets mostly consistent usage for the Eagles in a scoring center role. Beaudin still is clearly not an organizational favorite so a callup might be unlikely but he’s a good productive, dependable and creative playmaking center.
12 Danila Zhuravlyov
Sent to the league where nobody scores (Russia’s VHL), Zhuravlyov has gone through defense boot camp and put his offensive gifts on the back burner this season. He still possesses a good amount of talent in an intriguing package and should be worth the wait to see where his development path takes him.
13 Sergei Boikov
Perhaps the most confusing Avalanche prospect because Boikov’s talent as a two-way defenseman is evident but how that will ever translate to the NHL is still a mystery. Even in his third year (sort of) of pro hockey there’s a hint of upside despite the fact he may never get the call.
14 Nick Henry
Enjoying arguably the best season out of any Avalanche prospect on the scoreboard, Henry has done everything in his power to earn a NHL contract. His shot has served him well at the junior level and he’s ready for the next step in pro hockey.
15 Brandon Saigeon
Nothing surprising about Saigeon lighting up junior hockey as an overager but just like Henry he’s doing exactly what he needs to in order to secure a NHL contract. Also like Henry, he will still have to fight his way up the organizational ladder once he gets there to get an opportunity.
Credit Colorado Eagles for the photo